Canadian innovation targets health-care access crisis
Health-care access for most Canadians is in crisis, with limited availability of physicians in times of need. Fifteen per cent of Canadians have no family doctor, while one-third of Canadians with a family physician wait more than six days to get an appointment, even when they’re sick. Most Canadians spend hours in waiting rooms to meet even routine medical needs, resulting in avoidable workplace absences and poor health outcomes due to delayed or missed care. The situation is even worse for rural Canadians, given 21 per cent of the Canadian population is rural, while only 9.4 per cent of family physicians practice outside of cities.
This lack of primary care options drives 47 per cent of us to visit the ER for conditions we know aren’t emergencies—because we have nowhere else to go. In the last two years, 44 per cent of Canadians visited an emergency room, double the 22 per cent seen in best-performing European countries. This places tremendous strain on our system, given the cost of an ER visit to governments is at least 10 times that of a family doctor visit ($300 vs. $30). Meanwhile, 60 per cent of Canadian doctors don’t work full time, due to lack of funding, lack of space, billing caps, and the impracticality of opening office space overnight and on weekends.
It’s time for a new, more efficient way for Canadians to access care. In every country in the developed world, accessibility has been improved in recent years through the introduction of direct to patient telemedicine—the delivery of care at distance using technology. From Doctor on Demand and Teladoc in the United States, to Babylon Health in the United Kingdom, telemedicine is exploding in popularity, and has proven able to treat 70 per cent of common medical issues without the need for an in person physical examination. Unfortunately, outside of a few isolated efforts, this game changing way of providing care has not made its way to Canada.
Alongside a talented team of physicians and partners, I created Maple because it’s time Canada caught up to other countries when it comes to health-care access, and it’s time we stopped looking to government to provide solutions.
What is Maple? Maple (www.getmaple.ca) is a new way for Canadians to see a doctor, no waiting room or office space required. Maple is like the Uber for patients and physicians, offering on-demand online video doctor consultations anytime, 24/7. Whether someone is coming down with symptoms, or just requires a prescription renewal, Maple’s network of doctors can help in minutes. With Maple, physicians become productive during previously unusable downtime, and Canadians can have their health needs met anytime, from anywhere.
We’ve launched Maple to incredible success in Ontario, starting with a network of family and emergency physicians, and we’ll be expanding across the country over the next 12 months. We’ll soon be adding a full range of specialists to our roster of physicians, so that we can also help the 30 per cent of Canadians that currently wait more than two months for a specialist’s opinion and attention.
At Maple we’re excited to be leading the charge on innovating Canadian health-care delivery. If our service can reduce Canada’s ER utilization rate by just one point, to 43 per cent every two years, we’ll save the Canadian taxpayer $115 million every year, and we’ll be making Canadians’ health care more comfortable and convenient in the process—a win-win by any measure. As Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation is the only way to win.” When it comes to health care in Canada, it’s about time we finally followed his advice.
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